Leadenhall Market dates back to the 14th century and is situated in what was the center of Roman London. Originally a meat, poultry and game market, it is now home to a number of boutique retailers, restaurants, cafes, wine bars and an award-winning pub.
Starting as the site of a manor, Leadenhall has survived changes in use, rebuilding, and even the Great Fire to become a popular destination for city residents, visitors and workers.
Built on the site of a Roman Basilica (Courts) and Forum (Market), Leadenhall was the largest market North of the Alps and occupied an area bigger than that of Trafalgar Square. After the Romans left, much of London was left in ruins and little is known of Leadenhall’s history throughout the Dark ages.
In 1309 the Manor of Leadenhall is first listed as belonging to Sir Hugh Neville. By 1321, the area around Leadenhall manor is now as a known meeting place for poulterers. They are joined, in 1397, by cheesemongers.
In 1408 the former Lord Mayor Richard ‘Dick’ Whittington acquired the lease of the building, and acquires the site in In 1411. It quickly became one of the best places in London to buy meat, game, poultry and fish. The meat and fish market occupied a series of courts behind the grand lead-roofed mansion of Leadenhall Market on Leadenhall Street. The site grows in importance as a granary and a chapel are built to service those coming to the market.
In 1463, the beam for the tronage and weighing of wool is fixed at Leadenhall market, signifying its importance as a centre for commerce. In 1488, it is decided that leather is sold only from Leadenhall Market. In 1622, cutlery is made available only from Leadenhall Market. The Great Fire of 1666 destroys much of the City of London, including parts of the market. When it is rebuilt not long after, it becomes a covered structure for the first time and is divided into the Beef Market, the Green Yard and the Herb Market.
Business continued until Leadenhall’s redevelopment in 1881 with the City’s architect, Horace Jones. His designs replaced the earlier stone structure with wrought iron and glass – a structure which in 1972 is given Grade II* listed status. A celebrated character in Leadenhall during the 18th century was ‘Old Tom’, a goose which managed to escape execution even though it is recorded that 34,000 geese were slaughtered there in two days. He became a great favourite in the market and was fed at the local inns. After his death in 1835 at the age of 38, he lay in state in the market and was buried there.
The marketplace was featured a few times in the Harry Potter series — it was the film location for some of the original exterior shots of Diagon Alley, the cobblestoned shopping hub of the wizarding world where Hogwarts students can stock up on school supplies like spell books and wands.
Today if you wander down the market’s Bull’s Head Passage you may recognize the blue door of an optics shop (an empty storefront at the time of shooting) as the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron in Goblet of Fire.
And here is the location of the market :